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The Water Act – What Does It Actually Bring?

For healthy drinking water, greater environmental protection and improved flood safety. Water must be treated with respect in every part of the water cycle. That is why the amended Water Act, which will unfortunately be the subject of a referendum, limits activities affecting waterside land and completely prohibits the construction of private and potentially dangerous buildings near water. Contrary to certain interpretations, the Act's stricter rules provide greater protection of waterside land and ensure the necessary funds for watercourse maintenance and flood control.

Contrary to certain interpretations, the amended Water Act provides greater protection of the environment and healthy drinking water. Unfortunately, it will be the subject of the 11 July referendum.

Stricter conditions for activities affecting waterside land

Contrary to certain interpretations, the amended Water Act limits activities affecting waterside land. The current legislation allows plenty of room for manoeuvre to build on waterside land, as this is not expressly prohibited under the existing Act. The fact that the current Water Act does not offer adequate water protection is clearly demonstrated by the number of exceptions allowing construction on waterside land that was potentially harmful to the environment: 54 such decrees have been issued to date. It allowed the construction of factories and industrial facilities in close proximity to water.

The amended Water Act completely prohibits the construction of such buildings on waterside land. Construction on waterside land will now only be possible for buildings for public use, such as recreational facilities, playgrounds, etc. The construction of industrial facilities on waterside land will no longer be permitted under any condition.

As Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning Andrej Vizjak put it: "Until now, the narrowing of waterside land permitted the construction of buildings for both private and public use, including factories using hazardous substances, private villas, petrol stations and hotels. We are now limiting these possibilities: from buildings for private and public use to only buildings for public use. That is what the Act says, regardless of certain interpretations." 

❌   Myth: The Water Act allows uncontrolled construction of private or industrial facilities on waterside land.

✅   Fact: The Act prohibits any private or industrial development on waterside land, which was possible to date under the current legislation. It only provides for the possibility of building simple public infrastructure that is not harmful to the environment or water and brings nature closer to people in a sustainable way.

Industrial facilities do not belong near water. As the current Act allows construction on waterside land, villas and even industrial plants using hazardous substances were built right next to the water.

Left up - Simple structures and shoreline management. Allowed under the amended Water Act. Right down - Factory by the river. Allowed under the current legislation. Prohibited under the amended Water Act.

Decision on activities to be left to the experts

As water and activities affecting the environment are an important technical issue, the decisions that have so far been made on the political level will now be left entirely to the experts. The Government will no longer be able to narrow waterside land, and the decisions on such activities will be made by qualified experts from the Water Directorate.

Any potentially authorised activities on waterside land will require a water approval, which has not been the case so far. Construction of any buildings that are not in compliance with these criteria and could potentially pose a risk to the safety of drinking water will not be permitted under any circumstances. Drinking water and clean environment are assets we can be proud of and must preserve, therefore, it is only right that experts decide about possible activities on waterside land based on accurate and strict criteria.

In focus

The Water Act does not endanger drinking water in any way, moreover, it further protects it. Contrary to certain interpretations, the Act imposes stricter conditions for developments on waterside land than the previous regulation.

Greater flood safety

The increasing frequency of floods makes it imperative to ensure public security and reduce flood risk in all river basins in the country. The amended act therefore guarantees vital funds for the maintenance of watercourses: "The main purpose of the Water Act is to increase the funds for water management. This was also the reason why we submitted the Act for deliberation under summary proceedings, namely, to proceed with the maintenance of watercourses as soon as possible," stressed Minister Vizjak.

The Water Act provides EUR 17 million for the necessary maintenance of watercourses and the establishment of flood safety, so that the most urgent remediation works can be carried out on watercourses and floods can be prevented. With the call for the referendum, the proposers jeopardised the implementation of these incredibly important measures, risking further flooding in many places during future high-water periods.

Excerpt:

"I think this referendum is bad, both for the waters and for the people who live by the water. The process of collecting signatures was in diametrical opposition to what the Waters Act actually means. The Act provides more funds for the maintenance of watercourses and restricts possible activities on waterside land."

– Andrej Vizjak, Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning

"The Act has nothing to do with the privatisation of water, with restricting access to water, with undermining the right to safe drinking water. When the signatures were being collected, people were misled. The proposal has been twisted in the opposite direction, saying that it facilitates activities on waterside land, when in fact it restricts them," explained Minister Vizjak, adding that he believes that the referendum campaign will help to dispel these strange interpretations.